Bills vs. Texans: Buffalo's Refusal to Run Could Be Chan Gailey's Undoing
With a rushing attack that averaged 5.3 yards per carry headed into today's contest, the Buffalo Bills took the ball out of the hands of their two best playmakers and put it in the hands of their inconsistent passing game.
Bills head coach Chan Gailey loses his status as an offensive guru more and more every week he fails to get the ball into the hands of his backs.
Running backs Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller combined for 12 carries, picking up 60 yards (5 YPA), and although they added 10 receptions, it wasn't enough to keep the Bills offense moving consistently.
Instead, the Bills opted to throw. And throw. And throw some more. Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick dropped back to throw 41 times, going 25-for-38 for 239 yards (6.3 yards per pass attempt).
"They did a nice job with the personnel they had of taking us out of our run game," Fitzpatrick said after the game (per The Buffalo News). "We tried to run a little bit early with two [tight ends] and they did a good job of taking that away. We felt like we had a better chance getting the ball in the air."
Their decision-making led directly to some adverse situations, including conversions on just two of 11 third-down attempts, zero of three red-zone trips and two three-and-out drives to start the second half which both featured three straight incompletions.
In three red-zone possessions, they gained just eight yards on eight plays (hat tip to The Buffalo News. Only one of those plays was a run by a running back. Fred Jackson only got the ball twice in the red zone.
We've heard this story before, but headed into Sunday's contest, it was believed that the running game would be a key to the Bills game plan.
"A lot's going to be put on me and Fred," Spiller said after Wednesday's practice (per The Buffalo News). "We know that load's going to be put on us, and we're looking forward to getting the challenge."
Clearly, that didn't happen, despite Spiller averaging a league-high 6.5 YPA rushing headed into today's contest. A pass-run ratio of 41-to-16 (three carries by Fitzpatrick, one by wide receiver Brad Smith) is unacceptable with such a talented running game.
That level of imbalance might indicate that the Bills were trailing big all day, but rarely was the game out of reach, and only when the Texans went up by 12 in the fourth quarter did they ever lead by more than one possession.
Should the Bills be running the ball more?
Make no mistake, the running game struggled a bit. Outside of carries for 22 and 13 yards, Jackson and Spiller combined for 25 yards on the remaining 10 carries, but to completely get away from it, despite those two players making up the strength of the offense, seems a bit much.
Not only do the Bills lack skill position talent on the outside, but they lack a consistent quarterback. The Bills wouldn't be the first offense to be successful despite those limitations, especially with a solid pair of backs, but their other limitation—play-calling on offense—won't allow that to happen.
They have the personnel to be a running football team, and the sooner they realize it, the sooner they can get back to winning.
Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained firsthand or via team press releases.
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